Mind the gap!

There’s almost exactly four years between B and A.  Three years and 353 days to be exact.  For those who can’t be faffed doing the maths, A was born twelve days before B’s 4th birthday!

Some people think this is quite a big gap to have.  It’s certainly a bigger gap than most of our friends have, and of our antenatal friends from when I was pregnant with B, we were the last to have a second baby (apart from one couple who aren’t planning another).  But according to a recent article in The Times, we’re not that unusual.  The article says that the average age gap between siblings in the UK is now 3 years and 8 months.

We didn’t originally plan such a big gap.  Even before B was born, we spoke about having a gap of around two and a half years, and I remember when she was tiny and we were in that sleep deprived fog of the newborn days anxiously asking hubby “You do still want another one don’t you?”!!!

But things changed, we decided to wait, and then it took a bit longer than we had hoped, and I sadly had a miscarriage before A was conceived (more about all of those things one day I’m sure!).  But putting aside the fact that their birthdays are so close together (imagine a birthday party for 21 four year olds in a church hall when your baby is 17 days old….!!), I think the four year gap is working out pretty well for us so far.

Of course every family is different, and there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ gap.  I know there are pros and cons whatever gap you have, but here are some of my favourite things about how our wee family has worked out.

One of the biggest positives is the fact that I am on maternity leave during B’s first few months at school.  I can drop her off every day, and pick her up (a real bonus for the first three weeks when she has only been in mornings – what a faff that would be if I was working!).  We don’t have to worry about after school care, I can sit and do homework with her in the afternoon, rather than at 6pm when I’m trying to cook tea as well, and I just generally feel happy that I am getting the opportunity to help her settle in without having to juggle work as well.

I’m also very grateful for all the time I had to devote to B on her own.  I was very lucky – I had nearly 14 months off work after she was born, and when I went back to work it was only three days a week, so we’ve had lots and lots of one on one time.  I like to think that she has benefitted from not having to ‘share’ me with a younger sibling until she was 4, and I will always cherish that time we had just the two of us.  And of course now B is at school, I will get that one on one time with A as well – not quite to the same extent, but more than if we’d had a smaller gap.

At four, B was already pretty independent in a lot of ways by the time A came along.  She could go to the toilet by herself, get herself a snack from the cupboard, get dressed pretty much by herself…  She was also very good at entertaining herself in the early days when I was constantly on the sofa feeding A.  Yes we had lovely quiet times snuggled up reading stories, but she was also quite happy to take herself off to play with her dolls house or do a puzzle in the playroom for fifteen minutes.  Of course there was the time when I told her to play quietly while A had his feed, she disappeared through to the playroom, came back dressed as Merida, and started firing suction cup arrows at the patio doors….!!

I was worried that B would be jealous of a new baby, given that she had been our one and only for almost four years, but other than a few stampy feet and shouty moments in the early days, she’s pretty much taken it all in her stride.  We involved her right from the start – I will never forget the excitement on her wee face when we showed her the 12 week scan pictures and told her she was going to be a big sister.  She’s so proud when people ask her about A, and she’s enjoyed showing him off to all her new friends at school.  They are doing phonics and for each sound they learn they have to take something starting with that sound into school – for ‘A’, she took a photo of her brother!  She reads him stories, sings him nursery rhymes and just generally chatters away to him nineteen to the dozen!

And for his part, A absolutely adores his big sister.  His smile when she comes through to see him in the morning is lovely, and him giggling as she tickles him is one of those memories I have locked away in my heart (to recall on the days when they are fighting like cat and dog in a few years!!).

Of course it hasn’t been plain sailing the entire time these last nine and a half months.  I couldn’t count the number of times I’d just got A off for a nap only to have to waken him after 10 minutes to take B to ballet or gymnastics.  And then there were the days me and B would start baking, or doing a craft project, only to be interrupted halfway through.  Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know that A is not a particularly great sleeper, but now I have to be up at 6.40am five days a week, regardless of if I’ve only had four hours broken sleep, to get B to school on time.  And of course B’s days of daytime naps were long gone by the time A was born, so when they were both at home all day I got no down time at all until they were both in bed!

I suppose I do wonder whether they will be close growing up, particularly as a girl and a boy rather than two girls or two boys.  Will we be able to find things to do on weekends and holidays that will occupy and entertain them both as they get older?

But for now, things are working out pretty well with our 3 year and 353 day gap!!

Would love to hear what the best and worst things about the age gaps other people have are!

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Time to eat my words?!

This time last week, I was determined to wait until A was 6 months to start him on solids, so we could do baby led weaning. This week, I’ve kind of changed my mind. Well, there’s no kind of about it….

We’ve had a bit of a hellish week. B came down with some hideous virus on Sunday and even now, on Thursday, is not 100%. So between A being up every 2 hours during the night most nights, and B being up not well, on Monday I was like a zombie. I did my Tesco shop online in a sleep deprived haze, and for some reason I decided to stick some Ella’s Kitchen pouches into my basket. In the end, I was at the doctor with B when the shopping was delivered on Tuesday, so my mum, who was minding A for me, unpacked everything. She left the pouches sitting on the worktop, where they remained until yesterday morning – a morning which followed another sleepless night.

I remembered that before we’d started weaning properly with B, I’d let her play about with baby rice on the tray of her high chair. OK, I thought, let’s let A puddle about with some fruit puree at lunchtime. OK it’s not BLW, but it’s not spoon feeding either. Lunchtime got closer, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Then had an attack of the guilts that B’s first foods had all been homemade, and I decided I couldn’t give A something out a packet (nothing against Ella’s Kitchen, B still loves a “fruity pouch”!!). I had some pears in the fridge so I whipped up some pear puree. As you do.

I made myself a sandwich and popped A in his highchair – he’s been sitting at the table with us for a week or so now. I spooned some of the pears onto the tray and waited with great expectation. Nothing. He didn’t even notice they were there! Our highchair isn’t great for self feeding as the tray is quite high, and we’d planned to get another one after our holiday next week, so I helped him get his hands on to the tray and dipped his fingers in the puree. Still completely non plussed, and his hands fell back into his lap. Then I remembered reading about pre loaded spoons as part of BLW, so I got a spoon from the drawer (he’s been playing with a spoon and a cup while he sits in the high chair), loaded it with pear and held it out to him. He took it straight away, and put it straight to his mouth. A look of surprise crossed his wee face as he got his first taste, then he kept chewing on the spoon. We repeated this process five or six times. Some ended up on his face, some ended up down his front, but some definitely went in his mouth!! I was quite excited (and also hoping hubby wouldn’t be mad that I’d done it when he wasn’t there!).

Last night, A woke up at 11.20pm, which is a wee bit early for his night time shenanigans to start. Hubby went through and managed to settle him back to sleep, and I though that might buy us an hour or so before he woke for a feed. Next thing I was aware of was B at my bedside asking for Calpol. I looked at the clock. 4.45am!!!! I was so surprised I actually went to check on A before I saw to B. Needless to say he was fine, and he remained sound asleep until 6.15am, when I took him in beside me and he dozed off again until after 7am.

Now it could have been complete coincidence. I also had no caffeine yesterday for the first time in ages, so that could have been a factor in better sleep too. But I’m not taking any chances!! At lunch today, he had carrot puree (same process, pre loaded spoon) and a slice of avocado (which I think pretty much all got spat out!). I hadn’t planned to give him anything at teatime, but he was grouchy so I gave him a bit of broccoli from my plate. He ended up chewing on three bits of broccoli – again, some of it was spat out, but I think a wee bit went in.

So I’m not sure what kind of weaning we’re doing, but safe to say the process has begun, even if it is three weeks earlier than planned. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks we’ll lean more towards BLW, but in the meantime we’ll just take it as it comes (and hope for a few more good nights!!!). And I’m sure the Ella’s Kitchen stuff will come in handy next week when we’re away.

A big week for my wee man

It’s been a pretty eventful week for us this week.

First off, at the ripe old age of 18 weeks and 6 days, A cut his first teeth.  Not one, or even two, but THREE of the blighters.  He’d been pretty out of sorts at the end of last week and over the weekend – horrible cough and cold, dodgy nappies and just not quite himself.  Well now we know why!  He’s been dribbly and stuffing anything he can get his hands on into his mouth for a good few weeks now, but I didn’t think we would see any teeth for a good couple of months yet.  Wrong!  On Tuesday afternoon, he was chewing on my finger when I felt something sharp in his mouth.  I had a wee look and was momentarily confused because I couldn’t see anything.  Turns out that’s because, not content with getting three teeth in one go, he’s also decided to bypass the normal front teeth first route and go straight for the sharp pointy eye teeth.  So the two bottom eye teeth and one of the next to middle ones.  By yesterday, one of the top eye teeth was through the gum as well, giving him a total of four teeth.  No wonder he’s been grouchy!  Although I can’t help thinking that this perhaps means we get the worst over with now, and the rest should be slightly easier….  A girl can hope, right?!?

Incidentally, if anyone has any advice re relieving the symptoms, please let me know.  B was never really bothered by her teeth coming in, so this is all new to me.

The other major milestone this week was our first night without a night feed!!!  After being a really good sleeper in the first couple of months and some nights going 8 hours without a feed at night, by mid February he was barely going 4 hours.  So at that point I started doing a dream feed at 10.30ish, and that put us back to only one feed during the night.  On Tuesday night, he woke at 1am and just seemed unsettled rather than hungry.  Hubby managed to get him settled back to sleep, and I thought that might be him until half 2 or 3am.  Heard him stirring and looked at the clock – 6.17am!!!  So I took him in beside me and he dozed off until 7am.  Happy days.  Or should I say happy day, because the two nights since have been very disturbed, but I’m putting that down to the teeth.  At least now I know he can manage to go all night – definitely light at the end of the tunnel!

The next step will be moving A through to his own room…  Hubby is keen to do this ASAP, and in some ways I think we probably need to – he definitely keeps me awake with his rumbling around, and there have been several occasions when I’ve ended up feeding him just because we’re both awake and I didn’t think he would last until morning.  He is starting to look a bit cramped in his crib too.  But on the other hand, it seems too soon, and certainly if he’s going to be really unsettled with his teeth, it’s easier to have him in our room rather than to-ing and fro-ing all night.  He’s been having his daytime naps in the big cot to get him used to it, so hopefully when we actually move him it won’t be too traumatic.  Maybe next week….

The final bit of excitement (for me anyway) was my first evening out since before A was born!  I went to the theatre to see one of my friends appearing in an amateur production of Annie, which is one of my favourite musicals.  It was a bit of a rush – I got A ready for bed and fed him early, then as soon as he’d finished feeding I threw him at hubby and dashed out the door.  My dad gave me a lift so I didn’t need to worry about parking the car, and I arrived literally as the lights were going down.  It was lovely to have a bit of ‘me’ time, and needless to say everyone managed fine without me, albeit with Nana (my mum) on hand to do B’s bath while hubby winded A and got him settled!

Phew!  Exciting times.  Who knows what next week will bring!?

The week of the selfie (but not the one you think!)

Last week was all about the selfies for me.  I’m sure everyone is aware of the #nomakeupselfie, which has now raised over £2m for cancer charities, even though no one seems to know how it started!  And I did take part in that after I was tagged by a friend on FB.  However, that wasn’t the one that was the big deal for me.

Last weekend, I posted a couple of pics on FB of me breastfeeding A, in support of mass feeding events going on up and down the country.  These events had been organised by a woman called Emily Slough, who was unknowingly photographed by a complete stranger breastfeeding her baby in Rugeley; this person then posted the photo on a local FB group, labelling the poor woman a tramp.  Her plan to hit back at this narrow minded idiot was taken up firstly on social media, and then by the mainstream media.  Those who couldn’t go to an event were encouraged to post breastfeeding pics online.  I thought long and hard about whether to take part or not.  While I knew lots of my friends, particularly the female ones, would be fully supportive, I was also aware that I have male colleagues as FB friends….  Appropriate or not??  Well, in the end, I decided the point I was making justified the pics.

Let me say now that, in the nicest possible way, I don’t give two hoots how anyone else chooses to feed their baby.  It’s not for anyone else to judge or comment on.  Yes we know that breast is best – it’s rammed down our throats from the minute a woman discovers she is pregnant!  However, I truly believe it is only ‘best’ if both baby and mummy are happy.  If baby is not gaining enough weight on breastmilk alone, there is no question you will be advised to top up with formula.  But what if breastfeeding is making mum miserable, stressed, exhausted?  Is breast really best then?  Personally I have my doubts.

I did not enjoy feeding B.  In fact I would go so far as to say I hated it.  Looking back, there were various things that probably made our experience a bit more difficult.  First of all, I was recovering from an emergency C-section (more about that some other day!), so physically I wasn’t on top form.  Secondly, B was born with both hips dislocated (more about that later too!!), and from a week old was in a harness to correct that, meaning we had to be very careful how we held her and moved her legs, so positioning for feeding was tricky.  She was also very refluxy – you could never tell when she was going to throw up a whole feed in one go or whether it would just be coming up mouthful by mouthful for three hours!  I found the whole process frustrating, exhausting and never ending. People had warned me that in the beginning it would feel like I was constantly feeding, but I hadn’t anticipated how constantly!!  By six weeks B wasn’t gaining weight and wasn’t sleeping for more than a couple of hours at a time, and I was exhausted, so the health visitor suggested trying her with a bottle of formula at bedtime.  That night she slept through.  And the night after and the night after that.  She was happier, and I was happier.  She had her last breastfeed at 6 and a half months, but by that time it was only the first feed in the morning – the rest were all formula feeds. Also, in all that time, I never fed her in public.  Not once in six and a half months.  I just never felt comfortable with it – I was worried someone would stare, or laugh, or that B would throw up all over me.  So outings were planned around feeds, or I would take a bottle with me.  Even in my own house, if we had visitors I would still sometimes go and feed her in the nursery – that’s how self conscious I felt.

Why did I continue for so long if I disliked it so much?  Honestly?  A large part of it was not wanting to be the first of my antenatal pals to give up.  Ridiculous, and I know they wouldn’t have cared either way, but there you go.

I think there is a real lack of information available on mixed feeding – certainly as a first time mum to be, it seemed to be very black or white.  Either you breastfed or you formula fed.  There was only talk of introducing formula if the breastfeeding wasn’t working and baby wasn’t gaining enough weight compared to the blooming chart.  How to make a new mum feel like a failure!!  I know that until your milk supply is established you need to feed feed feed, but nobody really tells you that after that you can in fact do breast and formula in tandem if that’s what you want to do.

When I was pregnant with A, I genuinely considered not breastfeeding at all.  Hubby was dead against that – he said it was unfair to not even try when I had breastfed B.  He thought I should at least give it 12 weeks (not sure where he plucked that number from!); I said I would try but I wasn’t putting a timescale on it, and if I wasn’t happy then I would not be putting any pressure on myself to continue.  I also felt much more informed about mixed feeding and felt that was probably the road we would go down.

Ironically, A is now over 4 months old and is exclusively breastfed.  I don’t know if it’s because I knew what I was doing, or knew what to expect, or if he has taken to it more naturally than B did, but for whatever reason things just clicked into place with us.  He doesn’t sleep as well as B, but he is the same weight at 4 months as she was at 6 months, so he is thriving on it!  I have also got over my fear of feeding in public – I had to, otherwise it would have had a huge impact on B’s life.  He’s been fed at soft play, B’s ballet class, the John Lewis café, a 4 year old’s birthday party….  The first time I fed him while we were out and about, when he was 5 days old, I felt so proud of myself.  Now it’s second nature – if he needs fed, he needs fed.  The only time I’ve ever felt slightly awkward was at a kids’ theatre show we took B to at Xmas.  I was sat next to the dad of one of her nursery pals, the room went quiet and all you could hear was A gulping milk….!!

And that was why I decided to share my breastfeeding pics on FB.  In a world where all you have to do is open a newspaper at page 3 to see a pair of boobs, how can someone possibly have an issue with someone feeding their baby in public?  There’s more flesh on display in town on a Saturday night than there is when I’m feeding A.  It’s not about saying “Look at us, aren’t we so great breastfeeding our babies”, or trying to make out that breastfeeding mums are somehow superior to those who don’t or can’t.  It’s about saying “IF you choose to breastfeed, know that for every idiot who gives you a look or sniggers, there are ten more people looking at you in admiration and support”.  It’s about every mother having the right to feed her baby whenever and wherever she needs to, however she chooses to do it.

And if that raised a few eyebrows among some of my FB ‘friends’ then so be it.

As a footnote, you may be wondering why the photos were selfies.  That’s because when I mentioned it to hubby the night before, he said “I hope you’re not going to post photos are you??”.  Yep, the same man that was insisting I breastfed A for the magic 12 weeks.  Go figure!!!  😉